Watson hopes to draw more attention to caddie's plight

Updated: June 25, 2003, 6:25 PM ET
Associated Press

TOLEDO, Ohio -- In the two weeks since their magical 65 in the first round of the U.S. Open, Tom Watson has received an outpouring of concern and support for his longtime caddie who is dying from Lou Gehrig's disease.

"
With (caddie Bruce Edwards') affliction of ALS, our efforts are concentrated not so much on carrying the golf bag but trying to find a cure.
"
-- Tom Watson

''There's a lot of goodness in human hearts,'' Watson said Wednesday as he practiced at this week's U.S. Senior Open.

Watson is hoping to play well in the season's second major for the over-50 crowd for many reasons -- not the least of which is to keep Bruce Edwards' plight in the headlines.

''There's not a mean bone in his body,'' Watson said of the caddie who began looping for Watson in 1973. ''He does his job with passion and professionalism ... to make the team work like a well-oiled machine. With his affliction of ALS, our efforts are concentrated not so much on carrying the golf bag but trying to find a cure.''

A day earlier at Inverness Club it was Edwards who got more cheers and shouts of encouragement from spectators than did Watson and Jack Nicklaus, who have a combined 26 major championship victories.

''It was 'Come on, Bruce!' and 'Good to see you, Bruce!''' Watson said with a grin. ''They didn't say anything about Jack and me out there. It was all about Bruce.''

Edwards, 48, was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in January. The disease has no cure, and Edwards doesn't know how much longer he'll be able to do his job or even how much time he has left.

''Like the rest of America, I enjoyed watching Tom's first round at Olympia,'' Nicklaus, tears welling in his eyes, said Wednesday. ''It's a very sad story, a sad situation.''

The 53-year-old Watson shared the lead after the first round of the U.S. Open at Olympia Fields but ended up 12 shots back of winner Jim Furyk.

Watson, and his caddie, figure to draw most of the attention in the 156-player field at the Senior Open. Watson is at his best on long, tight courses with small greens -- layouts just like old-school Inverness.

Watson lost to Don Pooley in a five-hole sudden-death playoff a year ago at Caves Valley. Watson won the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, but is winless in three attempts at the Senior Open.

Inverness has hosted U.S. Opens in 1920, 1931, 1957 and 1979 and PGA Championships in 1986 and 1993.

Hale Irwin, who won the Open in '79, withdrew earlier this week because of back problems.

John Jacobs, who won the year's first major three weeks ago at the Senior PGA Championship, thinks he has as good a shot of winning as anyone.

''Now I know I can win so I'm not going to think that my game isn't good enough,'' said Jacobs, who at 58 became the oldest player to win a major in 27 years.

A newly minted senior, Craig Stadler, captured the U.S. Amateur title at Inverness in 1973.

''I would like to get some of those memories back because I made everything in '73,'' Stadler laughed. ''I hit it horrible, but I made everything. This would be a nice week to make putts, no doubt about it.''

Nicklaus, who won the Senior Open in 1991 and again in 1993, said he's feeling healthy for a change. He has extensive knowledge of the course since playing it for the first time in 1957 as a 17-year-old amateur. But he hasn't found a way to make putts on the lumpy greens.

''I'm hitting the ball pretty well,'' Nicklaus said. ''I just don't know whether I can figure out a way to get it in the hole.''

Pooley is just back from shoulder surgery and hasn't been able to practice much.

''There are a few holes in my game,'' he said, no pun intended.

Arnold Palmer, playing in a record 23rd consecutive Senior Open, said his goal is just to make the cut -- something he hasn't done in a major in the last five years.

''Do I think I can win this tournament? It isn't very likely,'' Palmer said, looking drawn after hitting balls in the oppressive mid-90s heat and high humidity. ''But I still have it back here somewhere that lightning may strike.''


Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press

ALSO SEE